New Report Published: The Challenges of Studying Digital Campaigning

Posted on July 31st, 2019 by Nikki Soo

A report published today following research funded by The British Academy describes in detail the huge challenges faced by academics studying political campaigning in the digital realm.

The report was compiled by Dr Katharine Dommett, Senior Lecturer in the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield to identify critical obstacles to researching the social impacts and consequence of political campaigns and adverts online.

It raises questions from academics and non-academics concerning the transparency of online political advertising and highlights ways in which social media firms limit and control access to political campaign data for reputational purposes.

As digital advertising and campaigning becomes increasingly integral to the activity of political groups, researchers warn that obstacles will not be easily overcome – leaving questions of efficacy, social impact and ethics unanswered.

The questions asked in this report are particularly urgent given the prospect of a general election in the UK, and forthcoming elections in the US and around the world. The report also speaks to questions raised by policy makers and regulators such as the House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Select Committee – established in June this year. It also relates to questions raised recently by Netflix documentary The Great Hack and is pertinent in relation to the appointment of Dominic Cummings – a critical figure in the Vote Leave campaign – as special advisor to Boris Johnson.

To read the report, please click on this link. For any questions, please contact Dr Dommett.